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Five Atlantic chapters call on Trudeau to intervene in dead herring crisis

The Council of Canadians Kent County, Fredericton, St. John’s, South Shore and Moncton chapters have sent an open letter to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and the premiers of Nova Scotia and New Brunswick demanding “a joint public conference with concerned citizens and the media, to provide updates regarding the herring die-offs, and to indicate steps that will be taken immediately to improve transparency, collaboration, reporting, and resourcing between citizens and frontline DFO [Department of Fisheries and Oceans] staff.”

The Canadian Press has reported, “Tens of thousands of dead herring keep washing ashore along Nova Scotia’s western coastline, a mystery for biologists trying to figure out what is killing the small, silvery fish. Herring are known as a forage fish, which means their large schools play an important roll in feeding whales, seabirds, seals and larger fish, such as cod. Retired veterinary pathologist [Ted Leighton] has compiled more than 40 sightings of dead herring since late November, to shed light on an ecological puzzle that has stumped the scientific community. The herring deaths were cause enough for concern, Leighton said, but now that new species have surfaced dead on a beach in Digby County [including starfish, clams, lobsters and mussels].”

The letter from the chapters highlights, “Our publicly-funded scientists must be unrelenting in search of identification of contributing causes. Instead, after virtually hiding for more than five weeks, regional DFO staff emerged on Friday December 30th. DFO comments appear dismissive: there is nothing to be concerned about, the event appears to be over, it is not ‘environmental’, etc., while they are unashamed to say it’s ‘perplexing’.”

The letter then calls on the prime minister, the federal minister and premiers “to set the example for the DFO staff who have been psychologically ‘decimated’ by the previous federal government regime. You need to show them it is not just ‘ok’ but expected that they will function at top-speed, transparently, respectfully to concerned citizens, etc., in a crisis such as this. Canada’s public service scientists need to be convinced that the reign of terror is over. They need to know that the public and environmental good is what you expect them to diligently research and advocate, and that there will be no personal consequences or repercussions.”

The petition launched by the Kent County chapter on this issue has now been signed by more than 53,000 people. To add your name to it, please click here.

To read the full letter signed by the five chapters, click here.